Friday, September 21, 2012

Steven Johnson’s New Book - Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age

The TED Blog has posted a review of Steven Johnson's new book, Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age. They have also included three of his TED Talks. Johnson appears to be arguing for the emergence of a new political worldview - "influenced by the success and interconnectedness of the Internet, but not dependent on high-tech solutions" - that will usher in an end to the tired old thinking of the liberal and conservative categories.

Here is the publisher's promotional text for the book:

Combining the deft social analysis of Where Good Ideas Come From with the optimistic arguments of Everything Bad Is Good For You, New York Times bestselling author Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect makes the case that a new model of political change is on the rise, transforming everything from local governments to classrooms, from protest movements to health care. Johnson paints a compelling portrait of this new political worldview -- influenced by the success and interconnectedness of the Internet, but not dependent on high-tech solutions -- that breaks with the conventional categories of liberal or conservative thinking.

With his acclaimed gift for multi-disciplinary storytelling and big ideas, Johnson explores this new vision of progress through a series of fascinating narratives: from the “miracle on the Hudson” to the planning of the French railway system; from the battle against malnutrition in Vietnam to a mysterious outbreak of strange smells in downtown Manhattan; from underground music video artists to the invention of the Internet itself.

At a time when the conventional wisdom holds that the political system is hopelessly gridlocked with old ideas, Future Perfect makes the timely and inspiring case that progress is still possible, and that new solutions are on the rise. This is a hopeful, affirmative outlook for the future, from one of the most brilliant and inspiring visionaries of contemporary culture.

Seems to be getting positive reviews so far.

On our reading list: Steven Johnson’s book Future Perfect

Steven Johnson’s new book, Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age, tackles subjects ranging from underground music video makers to New York’s 311 telephone service to the planning of the French railway system to Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger and the “miracle on the Hudson.” His point? That new solutions to old problems are not only possible, but are on the rise.

Initial reviews for this new tome appear very positive. Publishers Weekly writes, “In the future, progress will not arise primarily out of government directives or policies but out of peer networks. A peer network builds tools that lets a network of neighbors identify problems or unmet needs in a community, while other networks propose and fund solutions to those problems … Stimulating and challenging, Johnson’s thought-provoking ideas steer us steadily into the future.” calls the book “an absorbing, provocative, and unapologetically optimistic vision for the society we have the capacity to build if we use the remarkable tools of our age intelligently and wisely.” And Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “thought-provoking, hope-inspiring manifesto.”

After the jump, watch three TEDTalks from Johnson.

Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from
While great thinkers often say that they had a light bulb-over-the-head moment, Johnson debunks that mythology, showing that innovations happen within a network of knowledge and that there are patterns underlying idea creation.

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Steven Johnson on the Web as a City
The internet is not a completely new structure. It is built by many, controlled by no one, and deeply interconnected while also functioning as independent parts — in other words, the internet has a lot in common with the structure of a city. In this talk, Johnson ruminates on both the power and fear that happen with density, both online and in our cities.

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Steven Johnson tours the Ghost Map
What is the Ghost Map, you ask? It’s the charting of how sickness traveled during the cholera outbreak of London in 1854. In this talk, Johnson gives an overview of how the outbreak taught the importance of public health and influenced what our cities look like today.

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